Quantcast

The Nation

Romney v. Europe

What does Mitt Romney have against France? Campaigning this week in Iowa, Romney warned that, even though America's unhappy with the war, it's "not about to take a sharp left turn and put somebody in the White House who would turn America into a European-type state." The day before, in New Hampshire, Romney trotted out the old GOP red flag against "big government, big brother, big taxes." "That's where Europe went," he added "That's what got them the economic challenges they had." Old Mitt's sticking close to a campaign strategy memo, written by his top advisers and reported in the Boston Globe earlier this year, that advised him to make "European-style socialism" the enemy. "That's where Hillary and the Dems would take us," the memo said, "Hillary=France." (Romney's also taken to comparing Hillary Clinton to Karl Marx.)

Perhaps he could me more grateful to his one-time host country. As a young Mormon, Romney received a missionary draft deferment and spent two plus years attempting to convert the residents of Bordeaux and Paris to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. According to his one-time fellow missionary, Dane McBride, the usual answer was "Non, merci."

Though Romney organized the 2002 Winter games in Salt Lake City, he's apparently lost the Olympic spirit of global goodwill. Meanwhile, the Americans in Paris featured in Michael Moore's SICKO seem quite happy with France--fries and universal healthcare included.

A Commitment to the Constitution

The Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch and MoveOn.org have launched a vital campaign to put restoration of the Constitution on the agenda for Democratic presidential candidates -- just as the conservative American Freedom Agenda movement has done for Republican candidates.

CCR, Human Rights Watch and MoveOn have dubbed their initiative the American Freedom Campaign (AFC), and its goal is roughly parallel to that of the American Freedom Agenda movement launched by former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, veteran Republican strategist Richard Viguerie and American Conservative Union chairman David Keene: "to build grassroots support to restore checks and balances and reverse abuses of power by the executive branch."

Like the American Freedom Agenda, which has dogged Republican candidates to sign on for restoration of the Constitution -- with limited success, aside from an enthusiastic endorsement by Texas Congressman Ron Paul -- the CCR/Human Rights Watch/MoveOn campaign will urge presidential candidates to sign its "American Freedom Pledge."

The pledge reads:

We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal recourse, allow our phones and emails to be tapped without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any President.

The Constitution protects American Freedom. With checks and balances, and basic legal rights, it has prevented tyranny and safeguarded our liberty. Yet today, under the pretense of the "war on terror," the White House is dismantling the Constitution, concentrating power in the President and undermining the rule of law. THIS IS UN-AMERICAN.

I hereby join the American Freedom Campaign to educate my neighbors about the threat and urge my representatives to confront and correct these abuses of our America.

That's a sound statement, although it is not quite as specific as the American Freedom Agenda declaration, which asks candidates to pledge to:

* Prohibit military commissions whose verdicts are suspect except in places of active hostilities where a battlefield tribunal is necessary to obtain fresh testimony or to prevent anarchy;

* Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture or coercion in military or civilian tribunals;

* Prohibit the detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants without proof of criminal activity on the President's say-so;

* Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien enemy combatants, i.e., non-citizens who have allegedly participated in active hostilities against the United States, to protect the innocent;

* Prohibit the National Security Agency from intercepting phone conversations or emails or breaking and entering homes on the President's say-so in violation of federal law;

* Empower the House of Representatives and the Senate collectively to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of signing statements that declare the intent of the President to disregard duly enacted provisions of bills he has signed into law because he maintains they are unconstitutional;

* Prohibit the executive from invoking the state secrets privilege to deny justice to victims of constitutional violations perpetrated by government officers or agents; and, establish legislative-executive committees in the House and Senate to adjudicate the withholding of information from Congress based on executive privilege that obstructs oversight and government in the sunshine;

* Prohibit the President from kidnapping, detaining, and torturing persons abroad in collaboration with foreign governments;

* Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without fear of prosecution; and;

* Prohibit the listing of individuals or organizations with a presence in the United States as global terrorists or global terrorist organizations based on secret evidence.

Theoretically, Democratic and Republican candidates could sign on to both pledges. But let's accept for the time being that two campaigns are needed to address the damage done by the Bush/Cheney administration to our one Constitution.

Let's also accept that the conservative American Freedom Agenda has set the standard that the new American Freedom Campaign should adopt with regard to presidential candidates. When Republican candidates have refused to sign on to the American Freedom Agenda, the conservatives running that campaign have highlighted the fact with press statements that are sharply critical of the reluctant contenders.

After former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney begged off, Fein told the Boston Globe, "Mitt Romney's ignorance of the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses would have alarmed the Founding Fathers and their conservative philosophy."

The American Freedom Campaign should adopt a similar standard. It is not enough to hail those candidates who agree to defend the Constitution. It is also necessary to condemn those who fail to do so.

After all, if candidates won't commit to the Constitution during the campaign, it is a safe bet that they will not do so once they are in office.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Josh Marshall on Impeachment

What was once considered marginal is now mainstream. A majority of the country supports beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice-President Dick Cheney; and when it comes to his partner, Bush, the nation is evenly divided.

Legal experts make the case that the grounds for impeachment are stronger now than when the House threatened to impeach Nixon. The list of criminal acts and instances of executive overreach grows longer with each passing day. Constitutional crisis looms. And as my colleague John Nichols has said, (and written in our magazine this week)-- at a time of constitutional crisis, impeachment proceedings are the proper tonic.

That said, I've had as many questions as answers about the political value of pursuing impeachment proceedings--and The Nation has published strong views for and against. (For one of the strongest cases "For", see Elizabeth Holtzman's rigorous and powerful cover story, "The Case for Impeachment," published in January 2006; I'd argue that it was central spark to launching a movement that has now acquired extraordinary popular groundswell.)

What's fascinating to watch is how pragmatic political commentators are now beginning to see that impeachment may not be that radical a remedy--especially when confronted with a defiantly lawless Administration. Today, for example, respected political analyst/blogger/ writer Josh Marshall posted a must-read blog at TalkingPointsMemo.com.

He's still opposed to the movement to impeach Bush, but in a sign of how this political moment is shaping Marshall's reasoning, he writes:" Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the Constitution, acting as though not just the law , but the Constitution itself , which is the fundamental law from which the statutes gain that force and legimitacy, doesn't apply to them. If this is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed."

Marshall admits that his position on impeachment hasn't changed. Yet. But it is clear that he is a man on an intellectual and political journey when it comes to this issue. He ends by noting: " I think we we're moving on to dangerous ground right now, more so than some of us realize. And I'm less sure now under these circumstances that operating by rules of 'normal politics' is justifiable or acquits us of our duty to our country." That is a central question: How do we acquit ourselves of our duty to our country? Marshall remains opposed to impeachment proceedings on pragmatic grounds. I understand his thinking and reasoning.

And while, like Marshall, I've wrestled with the political value of impeachment proceedings, in these last weeks and months it seems increasingly clear that we as citizens have a higher moral duty to our country, its fate and future generations. While some have argued that impeachment may create a constitutional crisis, it may well be that Impeachment is the cure for our constitutional crisis.

Who's the Victim in the Case of Michael Vick?

Michael Vick has a 10-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons for $130 million. His skill at running, kicking and throwing a football has won him the admiration of millions -- until now. As you probably know, Vick has been charged with involvement in the cruel and illegal "sport" of dog fighting. Americans may not care if an athlete beats his wife, but we love our pets. Breeding and training dogs to fight and kill, disposing of the losers by hanging, electrocution, slamming them repeatedly onto the floor -- this is definitely taking machismo too far.

In his recent piece for The Nation's website, Dave Zirin makes some valid points. Yes, Vick deserves some semblance of the presumption of innocence in the media. (Vick claims others ran the dog fight business from his Virginia house without his knowledge when he wasn't present.) And yes, there's racism in some of the virulent attacks on him on sports and news websites. References to lynching, the n-word and OJ do suggest something besides love of animals.

But I was appalled by Zirin's attempt to shift focus away from Vick to "the self-righteousness of the media" and the hypocrisy of "American culture" which "celebrates violent sports -- especially football -- and is insensitive to the consequences that the weekly scrum has on the bodies and minds of its players" like Earl Campbell and Andre Waters and other middle-aged ex-footballers who suffered long-term damage from old injuries. Like the accusations of racism, this sounds like a rather desperate bid to change the subject. Why should one concern displace the other? Can't one both feel revulsion at animal torture and want the game to be safer? At least the the players were volunteers, richly rewarded for the risks they took. Nobody asked the dogs if they wanted to have their throats ripped out.

There's probably a sense in which Michael Vick is a victim. But it's the same sense in which everyone , from Alberto Gonzales to Paris Hilton, is shaped by social forces outside their control. If you take that view, though, everyone should get amnesty: the racist cop, the Enron executive, the porn-loving tormenters of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and all the other people we love to attack at The Nation. Why do I think we are not going to recommend our readers lighten up on, say, Scooter Libby, on the grounds that working for Dick Cheney would warp anyone's moral fibre? We only deploy the blame-society argument on behalf of people we already sympathize with.

As human beings go, Michael Vick had more freedom of action than most. Nobody claims he electrocuted dogs to put food on the table. If -- note I said if -- he's found guilty, he should get the same sentence other people get who are convicted of the same crimes. Increased sensitivity to animal welfare may have its annoying pieties and hypocrisies but it marks a true contemporary moral advance and it's not as if we humans have so many of those to show for ourselves. It's good that dog fighting is banned. And if football is really as morally destructive as Zirin claims -- if it really turns ordinary men into sadists through a culture of "trickle-down violence" -- then maybe we should ban it too.

ADDENDUM: I thought I would enjoy having a comments section on this blog, but as you can see I've turned it off. For some reason, the website's comment sections have been colonized by a small group of trolls--mostly men, mostly conservative -- who post obsessively, rudely, inanely and irrelevantly. I just got tired of hosting their sandbox.

War Made Easy

In 2005, Norman Solomon released his book, War Made Easy, which exposes the manner in which US presidents manage to sell war, like clockwork, through the same fallacious arguments, largely with the help of a compliant media.

Two years later the Media Education Foundation's Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp have adapted Solomon's book into a documentary film. The movie features footage of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and our current president making frighteningly similar arguments about the motives for wars. All claim that violence is a means to peace and that war is the last resort. "We still seek no wider war," said Johnson. "The United States does not start fights," said Reagan. "America does not seek conflict," argued George H.W. Bush "I don't like to use military force," said Bill Clinton. "Out nation enters this conflict reluctantly," says George W. Bush.

As the movie points out, the mainsteam media only turn against war when it is too late. "News media, down the road, will point out that there were lies about the Gulf of Tonkin or about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," notes Solomon in the film. "But that doesn't bring back any of the people who have died … when it comes to life and death, the truth comes out too late."

It is a chilling and persuasive movie. Solomon hopes it can serve as an organizing tool --and a call to action. "In my 40 years as a journalist and activist I have learned that it is important to see grassroots activity as central and not as peripheral" he says.

In that spirit the filmmakers are helping to organize screenings around the country in the hope that it will spark anti-war activity. So far there have been dozens of screenings of the film -- in churches, at meetings, and in people's living rooms. The meetings have been organized by various groups committed to peace, such as the Progressive Democrats of America and Veterans for Peace.

These grassroots screenings, says Solomon, offer people ways to see the film--and, perhaps even more important, help spark a dialogue between activists. "The most common reactions to the film have been feelings of grief and anger, as well as a heightened resolve to end this war and to prevent future ones," said Solomon. A recent screening in California, for example, prompted discussions on how to advance legislation to call for bringing California National Guardsmen home from Iraq. "Activists are making the film their own … it's a sharing process that moves us forward in the directions we need to go," said Solomon.

The Nation plans to screen this film on next week's Nation Cruise, and those interested in attending or hosting a screening of War Made Easy in their town can find details at the film's web site.


This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. he can be reached at www.michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com. Please send us your own ideas for "sweet victories" by emailing to nationvictories@gmail.com.

Specialist Town Goes to Washington

Yesterday in the Cannon House Office Building, Room 334, it was standing room only as the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing titled "PTSD and Personality Disorders: Challenges for the VA."

Chairman Bob Filner began the hearing by thanking reporter Joshua Kors – who testified on the first panel – for his Nation cover story exposing a horrifying injustice of soldiers returning from battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who are instead diagnosed with a "pre-existing" Personality Disorder that results in a discharge without benefits. It is estimated that the 22,500 soldiers discharged with personality disorders over the last six years will save the military $12.5 billion in medical treatment over their lifetimes. Filner himself said a psychiatrist had told him that higher-ups had ordered the use of this diagnosis to save money.

Featured in Kors' story, and also testifying at the hearing, was army veteran Jonathan Town. Town described to the Committee how "after a 107mm rocket exploded 3 feet above my head, leaving me unconscious," he was treated for a severe concussion, shrapnel wounds in his neck, and bleeding from his ear. Over the next nine months he experienced severe headaches, continued bleeding from his ear, and insomnia. When he returned to the States he struggled "to adjust to loud noises, large groups of people, and forgetting what had happened to my unit and myself while we were in Iraq…."

Town said that about six weeks after his arrival at Fort Carson, Colorado he was finally able to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told him that by accepting a Personality Disorder discharge, Town would be able to receive full benefits and his unit – which was getting ready to redeploy – would be able to get a new soldier assigned to replace him. "I told him that if this was what he thought was best for the military and my family that he could do what he needed to do," Town said. "I never realized that everything that was said to me during that day were all lies."

In fact, Town learned the day he left the army that the Personality Disorder was marked as "pre-existing" which meant he would not be entitled to the treatment the VA is obligated to provide for combat wounds. Adding insult – and further financial hardship – to injury, he was told he owed the Army $3000 for not fulfilling his 6 year re-enlistment.

Town, who is married with kids, said, "If it weren't for my family taking us in and supporting us both financially and emotionally, and for new friends helping us, I don't know where my family and I would be right now."

Town said he spent the last nine months "trying to get assistance both medically and financially through the Veterans Administration." He filed claims five times and received no response. After Kors' article, the VA finally arranged an interview for Town with another psychiatrist (the VA claimed to have lost each of the five previous claim submissions). This time, the doctor was "in tears" in 25 minutes and diagnosed Town with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.

As Kors revealed in his story, during Town's seven years in uniform he had been honored not one or two times – but twelve times. Town testified that he had been screened upon enlisting, screened before deployment, and screened two months after arriving in Iraq.

"I did not have a personality disorder before I went into the Army as they sated in my paperwork," Town said today. "I did not suffer severe non-stop headaches. I did not have memory loss. I have post-traumatic brain injury now due to injuries from the war… I love the army. Hopefully, now, they'll fix [this problem]. Show that the VA, the DoD, and the government does care about soldiers."

It's encouraging that committee member Phil Hare has introduced the Fair Mental Health Evaluation for Returning Veterans Act to suspend and review personality disorder discharges, and Senator Barack Obama has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. (Stay tuned for a future Legislation Watch post).

What is less encouraging is that the Ranking Member, Republican Congressman Steve Buyer, began this hearing by questioning whether the Committee on Veterans Affairs had jurisdiction over these matters of veterans' health. It was even more disturbing that Buyer never looked at Town during his testimony, talked with the member to his right during it, and even seemed to chuckle at one point. When it was his turn to question the panel, Buyer decided to shoot the messenger. He berated Kors for not naming names of commanders who were pressuring doctors for the Personality Disorder diagnosis. He berated him for not naming names of the doctors who were making the diagnosis (he spoke over Kors as he offered one name – psychologist Mark Wexler at Fort Carson). He castigated the reporter for "syllogism and innuendo," to which another panelist – veteran Paul Sullivan, Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense – replied that it sounded like Congressmen he knew.

Kors told Buyer he wouldn't reveal his sources – who feared for their jobs – no matter how Buyer pressured him. And Filner reminded the Committee that he himself had been tipped by a psychiatrist about pressure from commanders but that that individual wouldn't testify for fear of retribution.

Despite Buyer's efforts, the majority of the panel thanked Kors profusely for his diligent work. And they thanked Town for his service and bravery in stepping forward on behalf of thousands of other soldiers. It is clear that this committee, under the leadership of Filner, is determined to do right by the men and women who serve our nation and will not simply leave them to fend for themselves.

This post was co-authored by Greg Kaufmann, a freelance writer residing in Washington.

All Politics is International

Matthew Blake reports from Capitol Hill:

In his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy gave a vision of American service that would lead to establishment of the Peace Corps, famously declaring, "My fellow Americans: ask not what your country do for you; ask what you can for your country."

Karl Rove has turned this vision on its head. In March 2003 the White House asked Peace Corp officers, in essence, "How many of you are willing to be briefed on GOP Congressional and Gubernatorial races? Are you prepared to sit through a power point presentation on key media markets for the Republican 2008 presidential nominee?"

Since a Washington Post report yesterday that the White House gave political briefings to US ambassadors and Peace Corps officials, two Senate hearings have tried to ascertain what in the world the White House, much less the volunteer-driven Peace Corps and foreign assistance agencies, could possibly gain from such meetings.

Today, Connecticut Senator, Democratic Presidential candidate and Peace Corps alum (Dominican Republic '66-68) Chris Dodd scrutinized Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter for allowing a meeting between White House political strategists and around 15 Peace Corps officials. "I'm troubled by it," Dodd said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today. "The good reputation the Peace Corps has built over 40 years has been soiled."

Tschetter pleaded ignorance to a series of questions Dodd asked about who was at the meetings and continually responded that the sessions were voluntarily. He did admit, however, that the meeting took place at Peace Corps headquarters, which meant it likely violated the Hatch Act, a federal law barring executive branch employees from participating in partisan politics on the job.

Republican Senator Bob Corker was similarly baffled. He asked Tschetter to make certain that the "Peace Corps is still the gold standard in non-partisanship." Tschetter promised he would "ask around" about who attended the political briefings.

At a separate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday, United States Agency of International Development acting administrator Henrietta Holsman Fore skated around questions anout why her aides met with White House Political Director Scott Jennings before and after the midterm elections. "It is a corruption of process and waste of time to have 20-30 employees of USAID briefed on the electoral landscape," New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez told Fore. "I'm not quite sure how it helps development abroad to know the key battleground states."

Prior to these newest findings by the Foreign Relation Committee, the White House admitted to giving about 15 federal agencies "political landscape" briefings from Rove's office. Congress has particularly focused its investigation upon General Services Administration Chairwoman Lurita Alexis Doan, who told her underlings to "help our candidates" win the next election.

That type of service was not exactly what President Kennedy had in mind.

Targeting Alaska's Terrible Two

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, the dynamic duo that brought us the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," have long been known as the unrepentant kings of pork on Capitol Hill, funneling billions of dollars in federal money to their far-off state.

Now the law is inspecting whether Stevens and Young illegally lined their own pockets in the process. According to today's Wall Street Journal, "federal investigators are examining whether Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens accepted bribes, illegal gratuities and unreported gifts from VECO Corp., Alaska's largest oil-field engineering firm."

As former chairman of powerful committees, the cantankerous duo are the highest-ranking members of Congress to be ensnared in the flurry of corruption cases in Washington.

The Journal reports that "VECO has won a string of federal contracts in recent years" but it isn't known which contracts are the subject of the investigation. Stories have come to light about how Young earmarked federal money to benefit campaign contributors in states as distant to him as Florida. The current probe may prove a repeat performance, albeit with more local roots.

Here's what is known: VECO employees gave $157,000 to Young over the past ten years and VECO CEO Bill Allen threw a "Pig Roast" fundraiser for him every August. Earlier this year Allen plead guilty to trying to bribe members of the Alaska state legislature, including Stevens's son Ben, paying him $243,250 for "giving advice, lobbying colleagues and taking acts in matters before the legislature."

Allen bought a racehorse with Stevens, supervised the remodeling of his home in 2000 and dined with him frequently. Last fall FBI agents raided Ben's office and recently told Stevens to preserve documents pertaining to the case.

We are witnessing an old story, with new characters. The mixture of bravado, excess and avarice that elevated Stevens and Young in Washington may also bring them down.

Clinton, Kissinger and the Corruptions of Empire

Of all the corruptions of empire, few are darker than the claim that diplomacy must be kept secret from the citizenry.

This hide-it-from-the people faith that only a cloistered group of unelected and often unaccountable elites – embodied by the nefarious and eminently indictable Henry Kissinger – is capable of steering the affairs of state pushes Americans out of the processes that determine whether their sons and daughters will die in distant wars, whether the factories where they worked will be shuttered, whether their country will respond to or neglect genocide, whether their tax dollars will go to pay for the unspeakable.

It allows for the dirty game where foreign countries are included or excluded from contact with the U.S. based on unspoken whims and self-serving schemes, where trade deals are negotiated without congressional oversight and then presented in take-it-or-leave-it form and where war is made easy by secretive cliques that are as willing to lie to presidents as they do to the people.

Unlike the excluded and neglected people, however, presidents have the authority to break this vicious cycle by making personal contact with foreign leaders, by publicly meeting with and debating allies and rivals, by taking global policymaking out of the shadows and into the light of day. When the president is personally and publicly in contact with the world, diplomacy is democratized.

As the most scrutinized figure on the planet, an American president who meets and maintains contact with leaders who may or may not follow the U.S. line on any particular issue involves not just him- or herself in the discussion but also the American people. The president lifts the veil of secrecy behind which horrible things can be done in our name but without our informed consent.

So it matters, it matters a great deal, whether those who seek the presidency promote transparent and democratic foreign policies or a continuation of a corrupt status quo that has rendered the United States dysfunctional, misguided and hated by most of the world – and that has caused more than 80 percent of Americans to say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

In the race for the Democratic nomination for president, the two frontrunners are lining up on opposite sides of the question of whether foreign policy should be conducted in public or behind the tattered curtain of corruption that has given us unnecessary wars in Vietnam and Iraq, U.S.-sponsored coups from Iran to Chile, trade policies designed to serve multinational corporations and a seeming inability to respond to the crisis that is Darfur.

Hillary Clinton, the candidate of all that is and will be, wants there to be no doubt that she is in the Kissinger camp.

The New York senator's campaign is attacking her chief rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, for daring to suggest that, he would personally meet with foreign leaders who do not always march in lockstep with the U.S. government.

In Monday's night's YouTube debate, candidates were asked it they would be willing to meet "with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela during their first term," Obama immediately responded that, yes, he would be willing to do so. He explained that "the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous."

Clinton disagreed in the debate and now her camp is declaring that, "There is a clear difference between the two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office."

Leaving aside the fact that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a popularly elected leader, is not one of the "world's worst dictators," it is particularly galling that Clinton -- in her rush to trash Obama -- is contradicting her own declaration in an April debate that, "I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people."

Unfortunately, Clinton's vote to give Bush a blank check for war in Iraq and her defense of that war, her support for neo-liberal economics and a Wall Street-defined free trade agenda and her general disregard for popular involvement in foreign-policy debates suggests that the senator is showing true self when she dismisses the value of presidential engagement with the leaders of foreign lands.

Clinton is playing politics this week. But in a broader sense she is aligning herself with a secretive and anti-democratic approach to global affairs that steers the United States out of the global community while telling the American people that foreign policy is the domain only of shadowy Kissingers.

She is not just wrong in this, she is Bush/Cheney wrong.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"